Teenage rookie Tai Webster top-scored for the Tall Blacks for the second game in a row but it wasn't enough to stop them being well beaten by Greece in San Carlos, Brazil.
Webster was one of the few bright spots to emerge from yesterday's 49-73 loss to Brazil and went even better in his second outing, promoted to the starting line-up and pouring in 18 points to lead all scorers for New Zealand against the world's fourth-ranked team.
Webster (17) was initially a surprise selection for the NZ national men's team, taking his opportunity with Kirk Penney and Tom Abercrombie both injured, older brother Corey still serving a drug suspension, and point guards Mark Dickel and Mike Fitchett unavailable from last year's roster.
"Tai has got a massive future ahead of him," said captain Mika Vukona. "I really didn't know what to expect from him when he first came into the team, but his composure for such a young kid in this role is great to see, especially with New Zealand's stocks in the point guard position very low
"It's an awesome surprise and he's only going to get better. Tai's doing a great job for a young kid, telling everyone what to do and showing the leadership you really want from a point guard."
Webster had to replace veteran point guard Lindsay Tait, who was laid low with a stomach bug and is also doubtful for tomorrow's game against Nigeria.
After the Greeks started the game with a 13-2 scoring burst, Webster inspired his team to a 12-2 run of their own that brought them to within a point midway through the opening quarter.
But playing Greece responded with another 18-4 run that carried them well clear, dishing out 10 assists by the end of the first period.
The margin stretched to 38 points late in the fourth period, but as they did yesterday, New Zealand closed with a rush to reduce the final deficit.
Webster's points haul included three three-pointers, but his was not the only individual performance that stood out among the Kiwis.
Vukona had a pair of three-pointers in 15 points as he continued to get accustomed to the small forward position, while centre Alex Pledger produced a double-double of 13 points/10 rebounds that included six offensive boards.
Rookie Everard Bartlett also connected three times from the arc and, as a team, the Tall Blacks out-rebounded their opponents 39-27, including 16-4 offensively.
They also had the satisfaction of outscoring their rivals 24-20 in the final quarter.
But they also turned the ball over 20 times and shot just 36 per cent from the field.
Greece 99 (Printezis 17, Bourousis 13, Fotsis 12, Papanikolaou 10) New Zealand 69 (Tai Webster 18, Mika Vukona 15, Alex Pledger 13, Everard Bartlett 11, Jarrod Kenny 4, Jeremiah Trueman 4, Rob Loe 2, Leon Henry 2)
HT 55-30 (22-12)
Q3 79-45 (24-15)
FT 99-69 (20-24)
- © Fairfax NZ News